How to Overcome Self Doubt: Writing Tip of the Day

Have you ever looked in the mirror so long that you started loathing your own reflection? You notice each flaw. Your nose isn’t shaped the way you’d like. Your skin tone is less than perfect. Those pimples just keep popping up again, no matter what you do. 

I do this all the time with my writing. I examine it so closely that it seems deformed. The sentences are awkward and stunted. Word choice is less than ideal. I’m not even sure if it makes sense anymore. 

How do you fix this loathsome level of self-doubt? Here are my tactics for regaining confidence:

  • Pick up some light fiction to free your imagination from typo hunting and word gathering. Stop over analyzing and relax. Remember why you enjoy writing in the first place!
  • Set your story aside for a little while and engage in someone else’s imaginative vision. They can help rejuvenate your own muse. A day or even a week away from your story can help give fresh perspective.
  • Come back ready to be entertained. When you read through your work again, come with the mindset that you brought to the light fiction. Remember those horrible sentences that you loathed a little while ago? Now you can either appreciate them more, or understand how to improve them. 
  • Resist the desire to edit immediately. Sure, make a few notes in the margins, but don’t rip it up right off the bat. Give your muse time to breathe and engage in the story. Your story. That fascinating product of your own imagination. 

If you stare in the mirror and just focus on your nose, of course it’s going to look funny! But look around. Shocker: everyone else has noses. If you just stared and analyzed theirs, they would look funny too. 

There are times to analyze, but if you get stuck on that side of the pendulum, you’ll find yourself doubting your own muse. Back away from your story and enjoy it once in a while. It’ll give you the perspective and encouragement you need to move forward. 

Do these tactics work for you? How do you overcome self doubt?

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Listen up, Writers!

Even though you’ve probably read articles, blog posts, and even books on the art of writing, I’d like to add one more tip. Every writer needs this skill to set his or her writerly dreams into action. It floods the imagination with fresh inspiration, and opens new worlds for exploration. And what is it? 

The ability to listen. 

For a solid sub-point I should add, asking good questions.

People are very willing to talk about themselves, their lives, their experiences, their grandchildren—you get the point. They’re also excited to talk about their work or studies. Listen to your movies-obsessed friend long enough, and you can get the highlight reel from her film undergrad. You’re bound to hear lots of stories, whether they originate from a classroom of restless freshmen, or from the lore of Hollywood glamour. 

Any good journalist knows this right off the bat. But novelists are a different breed. Less outgoing, more introspective. So to those of you who are waiting for inspiration to strike: get out of your house, away from your desk, and talk to people. The post office lady. The random couple that you see at Starbucks every week. The list goes on and on.

Always remember to listen.